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Mourning the Loss of Alcohol in Your Life

Posted Sep 30 2008 12:19am

I had been alcohol free for 3 ½ months and was attending regular A.A. meetings. I was doing all the right things to further my recovery but was feeling empty. I was literally without happiness in my life and wondered if I would ever smile again. Sure I had physical problems that were slowing my feeling of well being but this was different. I was an emotional wreck…

Excessive drinkers go through a physical withdrawal from alcohol and this is difficult to say the least but what about the emotional withdrawal? The longer someone drinks the more dependent they become on the feeling alcohol gives them. It’s there for you when you are stressed out or after you have a tough day at work or at home. Whatever the reason you needed a drink the warm feeling of alcohol coursing through your veins seemed to make everything bearable.

As an excessive or problem drinker it also took you one step closer to physical dependence and full blown alcoholism. One starts to depend on the faithful old friend in the glass to make them feel better about things. Drinking excessively changes nothing that needs fixing in their life but it makes everything go away for awhile or at least seem less important. This includes everything that makes up your life OTHER than the reliance on and consumption of alcohol.

You have a difficult day at work and you need a drink to relax. Your husband is getting on your nerves more often and you head for the wine bottle. Your kids aren’t listening to you anymore about anything and you pour yourself a glass. It isn’t only the stressors in your life that justify a drink. You did such a great job grocery shopping that you deserve to crack open that smooth merlot. You have a slight cold and you decide to have a cup of tea and you add a couple fingers of brandy, it worked for your mother.

You see the pattern that develops when someone gets used to drinking for a reason. The dependence envelopes you and before you know it you’re having a drink to celebrate the summer solstice. When a problem drinker gets to this point with excessive drinking little wonder you feel emotionally attached to your alcohol. It is becoming an important part of your daily activity. It’s always there like a faithful dog and anyone who has ever lost a loyal pet will tell you the feeling of loss is enormous.

That drained empty feeling is what I felt driving home one evening from a meeting early on in my recovery. My wife was away on business and I was on my own for the first time since I quit drinking. Though I felt I could trust myself she was nervous about leaving me alone yet I felt it was an important part of the process. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming feeling of loss, fear and pity that came over me while driving. I pulled over to the curb and wept like a small child for a couple of minutes. I literally hadn’t cried in about 25 years so as well as being shocked by this I felt pretty embarrassed by my raw emotions.

Afterwards I felt better and realized this break in my emotions was good for me. As silly as it sounds it felt as if I was grieving the loss of an old friend. It was the first and last time my emotions got the better of me during recovery but it was a necessary step in the healing process. Later I was told that it’s quite natural for someone who stops drinking to lose it like I did. Its part of a mourning process one goes through when they know they won’t be drinking again.

A problem drinker will have cravings but these physical cravings can be curbed or stopped altogether with anti craving medication. When assisted by a professional this process is quite effective for altering drinking habits. An admitted alcoholic faces magnified cravings coupled with overwhelming compulsions to return to old habits. Wrestling with a severe addiction to alcohol leaves many in an emotional black hole that seems nearly impossible to vanquish.

It seems perfectly logical that a person afflicted with the disease of alcoholism would mourn and grieve through this period. Of course the firm grip of this obsession with alcohol should warrant professional assistance for the sufferer and many don’t get the treatment necessary to move forward with their lives alcohol free. Those that do often have relapses or “slips” along the road to recovery because it’s such a nasty addiction and relatively easy to access alcohol.

When something as simple as a beverage can have this dramatic effect on the human body, mind and soul great care should be taken by anyone who consumes it. If an uncomfortable drinking pattern is observed over time direct action should be taken. Seeking a professional opinion about your susceptibility to alcohol and taking effective measures to ensure you don’t enter into the danger zone of alcoholism is recommended.

To set up an appointment with Michael Pearlman, M.D.,
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